Thursday, 25 July 2013

Specimen Timbres or Stamps-Timbres?


Thought I would show this as there was a very nice and similar item on a popular online auction site recently. It was a card with several 1939 imperf specimen proofs with ST numbers. For a long time there was uncertainty as to what the letters "ST" represent. Someone later suggested "Specimen Timbres". But a presentation booklet from Waterlow & Sons was found which has the words "Stamps-Timbres" on its cover. It was and still is conventional for the Universal Postal Union to use french as the language of choice. "Timbres" is the french word for stamps.

Waterlow & Sons Ltd were responsible for the printing for the vast majority of the pictorial issues of North Borneo. These imperforated specimen stamps were said to be quite uncommon with about 100 of each value printed. They were often found mounted on a card and the letters ST and number written in Indian ink just above. The numbers should be in chronological order but the numbers for the 1909 and 1911 issues are in the 700s.
Interestingly, STs from the 1897 issue like this 5c were not mentioned in the Sarawak Journal nor The stamps and postal history of North Borneo part 2 1894-1908.
It was quite likely that they were samples used by representatives to solicit printing orders in a similar fashion to the miniature sample sheets of nine stamps. An example of which was shown on one of my posts in January 2012.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

A review of two books

Philately should be more than just collecting coloured bits of paper, putting them in one's album and then totally forgetting about them. One would get more pleasure and satisfaction by getting to know the background and details of the stamp and country that one is collecting.
It had lead onto my interest in local history. The following 2 books give a good account of life in those days from a colonialist point of view. One must also take into account that their lives and perspectives were very different from that of the natives.


I had wanted to read this for a long time. Having read a chapter in the Sandakan Library a few months back I manage to get it in UK. Oscar Cook by his account was a remarkable fellow in the service of BNBC in the years straddling the first world war. He worked his way up to District Officer. He cared for his charges and was generally very well regarded. In this respect, he reminds me of William Pryer. They were both somewhat at odds with the hierarchy of company which was more profit driven.
The book gives good insight into life and the sociopolitical situation in the various areas that he worked in including the Interior Residency, Labuk & Sugut, Tuaran/Kota Belud and Semporna. He was very much into local folklore and beliefs and the book mentions some examples.
However, there was considerable controversy as to how he handled the Labuk revolt at the tobacco estate which resulted in him not having his job renewed subsequently. In his short story, The Door of Opportunity, Somerset Maugham based the main character on the unfortunate Oscar Cook. In writing this book, Oscar Cook was, I feel, was trying to tell his side of the events.


A wholesome story of life in postwar Jesselton. After reading it, one has the impression of "paradise lost" from a colonialist's perspective. Most of the locals were probably still having a hard time. But there was peace and optimism in the air and despite the poverty there were a lot of happy people.
As expected, there was limited social interaction between the expats and the locals. Even among the European community, there was a sort of social hierarchy in which people of different ages or professional levels moved in different circles.
I have enjoyed reading it. It should be available in the library or one could buy it second hand as I did.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Some Japanese Occupation Showa stamps

There is much interest in JO stamps on this blog. These are a few other stamps which I acquired recently. The overprinted showa stamps can come in varying quality depending on which issues were used. The ones printed during the war tend to be poorer  due to war time austerity. The showas were generally mass produced in the millions. The term "showa" is used to designate the period of the reign of Emperor Hirohito which begun in 1926 and ended in 1989.

                                   Horyu Temple                             Kinkaku Temple

These two items seem genuine enough. There is clear indentation of the overprint at the back which does not show up very well on a scan. We have historical designs here which were let down by the poor choice of colour. They would have looked stunning with a frame and vignette bicolour scheme but the printing process would have been more expensive.

                                                Mt Fuji and cherry blossoms

This is undoubtedly my favourite stamp of the issue with the right choice of colour for the subject material. The printing was also of a better quality. This is in fine fresh condition being unmounted mint apart from slight gum disturbance due to storage on rice paper.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Labuan Misc


Some bits and pieces of interest. This should be the concluding post of this series. I may show in weeks or months to come, my other items of North Borneo and Straits stamps used in Labuan.


There is quite a noticeable shift of the lower overprint which maybe a buying point for some. The initial Labuan  overprinted stamp was issued in 1895 and then surcharged with 4 CENTS in 1899.


The only Labuan due stamp that is not bar CTO in my collection. These postage due stamps are quite uncommon in used condition. Note the significant shift of the  vignette downwards. In philately, the vignette is the central part of a postage stamp design.
Update I have just noticed this D6 date of  8 JUL 06 is almost a year later than the last date given by Proud and overlaps D7 by as many months.


On the right, we have a very interesting forgery. Even though it was not "LABUAN" overprinted, there is no doubt as to which stamps were the subject of imitation. The other labels in this series all bear the colours of comparable Labuan stamps even though they were based originally on NB designs. A forged cancellation with the word "IMITATION"  is often seem in this group of forgeries.
Update I can confidently ascribed these type of forgeries to Maeda Kihei of the Kamigata-Ya shop in Tokyo, a Japanese dealer in the 1890s and 1900s who forged stamps from about 27 countries, mostly Asian for sale. These are collectively known as Kamigata forgeries. They are generally crude and lithographed. Some are cancelled with partial circular cancels bearing the letters IMITATION.
Reference; The Fakes, Forgeries & Experts journal vols 5 Varro E Tyler.



I would be grateful if someone could tell me something about Lim Guan & Co. which seemed to be acting as some form of agency in Labuan around the date shown of 24 NOV 98. It was possibly a branch of a Straits or Sarawak company. Somewhere in 1883, there was a mention of a Wee Lim Gwan of Labuan who had something to do with a tender for a government licensed opium farm.
The history of the licensing of opium farms and gambling by BNBC is difficult to accept. It was primarily a form of levy on the immigrant and also some of the local population. One supposed it was better to control these vices which came along with the incoming Chinese immigration than to outlaw them which definitely would have driven them underground.
Update By 1890, Messrs Wee Lim Gwan " established themselves in Labuan as Auctioneers, Commission and Estate Agents".